EVERYTHING I SAW AND LEARNED LED me to believe dogs and cats were mortal enemies. From cartoons to movies, as far as I knew if the 2 of them saw each other they would fight until one got hurt or worse. As a kid everyone I knew who had pets always had only one species if there were multiple pets in the household. If a family had a cat they would only get another cat as a pet; the same held true with dog lovers. I had a parakeet; so, I would never have considered getting a cat, because in my mind cats ate birds. Do you remember Tweety and Sylvester? I rest my case; this is where I learned never to mix a cat and a bird. Then there was Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Since coyotes looked like dogs, I assumed dogs were not fond of birds either. I doubt I was the only one who thought this way; I am sure many kids around the same time were thinking the same thing about never mixing different species together. The same holds true for some of the movies I saw as a child where I would see a dog chasing a cat. NOW GRANTED THERE ARE ANIMALS WHO eat other animals for food. I remember seeing a movie that showed a lion going after a herd of wildebeests. It was obvious to me the wildebeests were afraid of the big cat. I translated that as hate. Did the wildebeests instinctively know from birth to fear the big cats or was it something they learned I wondered. I realized at an early age that humans do not come into the world knowing how to hate; they had to be taught on how to do it. I am not talking about hating a specific vegetable or fruit; I am referring to being taught that something or someone is no good, inferior, is bad. I learned about prejudice outside of the classroom, where some kids would make fun of me because I was not the same religion as them. There was a student in class who was quite vocal about his hatreds. He would bully those kids who did not fit into his beliefs. It was awful the way he would make fun of certain students, using their features as examples of what was wrong with them. I had thick curly/kinky hair when I was in school and he took great delight in calling me racist, horrible names. He did not have to be that way, but that is how he was taught. If only there had been someone who could have shown and taught him a different way; someone like the activist in this biographical, dramatic film. WHEN HER DAUGHTER’S SCHOOL CAUGHT ON fire and burned, civil rights activist Ann Atwater, played by Taraji P. Henson (Proud Mary, What Men Want), was determined to find another school for her daughter and the other students to attend. There were people in the community who hated her idea. With Sam Rockwell (Vice, Mr. Right) as C.P. Ellis, Babou Ceesay (Free Fire, Eye in the Sky) as Bill Riddick, Wes Bentley (American Beauty, The Hunger Games) as Floyd Kelly and Anne Heche (Wag the Dog, Six Days Seven Nights) as Mary Ellis; this historical story set in Durham, NC during the 1970s was brought to life by Taraji and Sam. They were dynamite in their roles to the point where I believed who they were portraying. The story was incredible and full of poignant moments that the writers could have taken and made them stand out. I wish they had done that because this historical event deserved a powerful script instead of the sanitized one in this picture. However, it did capture and keep my attention while showing a dramatic time that was brought on by hatred.
2 ½ stars
WHEN I WAS A MUCH YOUNGER BOY I thought there were many differences between men and women. Maybe it was the times, the environment or the teachings; but outside the physical characteristics both sexes were treated differently. I never understood why the color blue was designated as a masculine color and pink a feminine one. I was taught to open doors for women and to give up my seat on the bus or train for a woman who is standing. Rarely do I see either of these things being done these days. If a female drops something it was ok to pick it up for her; however, if a male dropped something it was okay to ignore it. To pick something up for another male was akin to telling them they were weak and puny. Seriously, this is what I was led to believe. And of course, there is that thing about showing emotions, especially sadness and tears. Heaven forbid you are watching a sad movie in your film class and tear up; your classmates will pounce on you for being a weak sissy. These are only a couple of the things that I encountered in my youth; I am glad I grew up. HERE ARE A FEW THINGS I see today: both women and men saying ignorant things, both sexes displaying prejudices, men and women competing on the same team and both capable of being poor drivers. In other words, in my small world I see very little difference between men and women. As such, I treat them the same. If either sex drops something I will pick it up for them. In my fitness classes I do not even see males and females; I see people working hard and doing their best. With the participants in my classes ranging in age from 16 to 80 years old, I see the younger generations have a different mindset about the opposite sex than the older members. It is encouraging to me because I believe everyone should be on equal footing and treated equally. In the locker room the only negative remarks I have heard about the opposite sex have come from older men. In my opinion there is a lack of respect on their part, based on their comments. I do not think they have a clue that their attitude is part of the problem. For all I know they may not even know what a woman needs and who knows, maybe the same thing goes on in the women’s locker room and they don’t know what men need. This was not the case for the woman in this dramatic, romantic fantasy. NO MATTER HOW HARD SHE WORKED Ali Davis, played by Taraji P. Henson (Proud Mary, No Good Deed), never felt like she was being treated fairly at her job. Could it be because she was the only female sports agent? This remake of the male version also starred Josh Brener (The Internship, The Belko Experiment) as Brandon Wallace, Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton) as Will, Max Greenfield (The Big Short, About Alex) as Kevin Myrtle and Brian Bosworth (The Longest Yard, Three Kings) as Nick Ivers. I do not know when this movie was completed but a part of me had to wonder while watching it if it was purposely written to appeal to our current events between the sexes. I felt the script had holes in it causing me to be bored. If it was not for Taraji’s valiant effort to get as much as possible out of the script, I would have been even more bored. Gratefully her acting kept this picture alive, along with the few scenes that I found humorous. I do not know how much you will gain from watching this film; I think you would learn more from one of my classes.
TAKE IT FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS, change is not always an easy thing. Change is something I prefer taking place over time—like the duration it takes for a sapling to turn into a majestic oak tree. Intellectually I know change is inevitable; but that does not mean I have to like it. For the past few years a friend and I have talked on the phone every day during my work commute. I have known her since we were in elementary school. We started talking to each other every day after she moved out of state for work. Recently she received a promotion that changed her schedule. After talking together on the phone for the past few years, she now had a daily work commitment that had to be handled at the exact time we would be on the phone. It was strange not talking to her; one of the reasons I discovered was it made my commute easier. It seemed to make the time go by faster and before you say anything, I always used a hands-free device to talk to her. I still wish we could have our daily talk, but I understand the reason why; she had bettered herself at work and that is always a good thing. PART OF FRIENDSHIP/LOVE WITH A PERSON is wishing them the best. Though things change a true friend or family member remains supportive through the process…or at least that is what they are supposed to do, according to my definition of family/friends. There is a couple of sisters I know where one of them pretends to be supportive but is incredibly passive aggressive toward her older sister. If you are not paying close attention you might miss the barbs and comments that the younger sister tosses over toward her big sister. I was a witness to it and was stunned by the way the younger sister tried to build herself up by putting her sister down. Based on the things I knew about the siblings, I could see why the younger one was acting out; she felt she was not getting enough attention. I felt this way based on the information I was privy to, besides seeing it with my own eyes. As I said before change is not always easy and because the older sister married first and had children, the younger sister was no longer getting to be the center of attention in their family. Some people just act that way; heck, it even happened in this animated adventure film. WHEN HER GAME SUDDENLY STOPPED WORKING; Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman (The Book of Henry, Battle of the Sexes), and her best friend Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly (Chicago, Kong: Skull Island), made their way to the internet to find a solution. They found more than they expected, in ways that would test their friendship. With Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman, Keeping Up with the Joneses) voicing Shank, Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, Proud Mary) voicing Yesss and Jane Lynch (Julie & Julia, Glee-TV) voicing Calhoun; this comedy sequel had many fun moments in it. I thought John and Sarah did a wonderful job together as they played off each other. The visuals were great to watch as the script provided humor for both young and old. If I have a negative comment it would be about the element of wonderment; since this was a sequel it did not have that extra magic of being a fresh idea. Also, the action did not always have a smooth transition. I still had a good time watching this picture and ultimately it did present an admirable conclusion to the topics offered up in the script. I am happy for this sequel.
THERE IS ANGER AND THEN there is white, hot anger. The type of anger that cuts off the brain from talking to its body, that blocks out all reasonable thoughts; white hot anger is almost always swift and hurtful. I have only seen this type of anger a handful of times. Once while a passenger in a car that got sideswiped out on the street, our driver exploded in such anger as he saw the culprit driving away. He made a U-turn in the middle of a 4 lane road, making cars screech to a halt while he slammed on the gas pedal to catch the other driver. We demanded to get out of the car, we were all so scared. There was another time I can still remember like it happened yesterday, though it was years ago when I was in school. Two students got into a physical fight that I could only describe as vicious. They were punching, scratching and kicking each other to the point there was blood. At one point I thought one of them was going to get their neck broken it was bent back so far. HOW THIS INTENSE ANGER CAN suddenly show up in a person confounds me, yet I am guilty of experiencing it myself. Let me first say it has been a long time since I flamed up with this type of anger, but it would come out particularly when I was either trying to fix some item in the house or assemble a product I had recently purchased. I had bought this device that claimed it would unclog drainpipes without the need of drain opener solutions. It was not a big product but had several pieces that needed to fit together just right. My tools were laid out and I had looked over the instructions before I actually began to assemble the drain opener. What I thought would have been a simple thing to do went way longer than I anticipated, so I was getting agitated. Finally after attaching everything together I went over to the bathtub drain to try out the device. Placing the suction cup over the drain opening I did exactly what the instructions said to do. Nothing happened; I reset and tried again but I got the same results. I cannot describe it but this pulse of intense anger burst out inside of me and I slammed the device on the edge of the bathtub, breaking it apart. Not proud admitting this but I was done with it. At least my anger was directed towards an inanimate object, nothing like the main character in this dramatic thriller. MELINDA, PLAYED BY TARAJI P. HENSON (Proud Mary, Hidden Figures), always had a temper; her boyfriend discovered it early on. He promised never to upset her again, but that would turn out to be a tall order. With Lyriq Bent (Pay the Ghost, Rookie Blue-TV) as Robert, Crystle Stewart (Good Deeds, For Better or Worse) as Diana and Jazmyn Simon (Baggage Claim, Ballers-TV) as June; this movie was all about Taraji. She does angry with the best of them. If I were her I would be angry also because the script was so ridiculous. People in the movie theater were laughing and talking back to the screen because some of the things being shown were unrealistic. There were no real surprises as the script followed a typical generic path to conclusion. If it was not for Taraji I would have been totally bored. Writer/director Tyler Perry (Madea franchise, Meet the Browns) picked the right actress for the role; sadly it was a role in a film I could not even get angry about for wasting my time because it was just blah.
1 ½ stars
I HAVE BEEN RACKING my brain out trying to figure out how I feel connected to this film. With the past year accomplishing something in the box office rankings that had not been done for 59 years (the top 3 grossing movies in 2017 were headed by females), I was looking forward to this female lead story. Now if you think about it, what does this statistic say about a society that divides acting between men and women? You know I treat the Oscar telecast as a high holiday, but I have been curious about this division. What would happen if they only had one category for best acting in a lead role? I do not see where acting skills should be judged by the person’s gender. If one is a great actor then they are and it has nothing to do with whether they are a woman or a man. Yet I understand from the dawn of time men and women have been separated and treated differently. And I have to tell you I find it amusing when one sex ventures into what is perceived as the other sex’s domain, such as car racing, knitting or hockey. ANOTHER ASPECT THAT NEEDS to be addressed in this conversation about the division between women and men is the personal perceptions people place on others. Maybe this happens less so now but I can remember hearing parents telling their child not to act a certain way. I am not referring to misbehavior, but to things that are steeped in so called gender characteristics. Examples like “don’t be such a sissy,” “act like a lady” and “you cry like a girl” come to mind. Who decided that certain traits were to be exclusive to one gender is what I would like to know. When it comes to my music I am attracted to big vocals, most of the time female voices. Not because they are women but because that combination of range and power mixed in the right combination is pleasing to my ears. With acting I simply want a dynamic performance that helps sweep me away into the film’s story. From the lead actress’ recent work I expected a strong character to shine in this action thriller. AFTER COMPLETING HER ASSIGNMENT by killing her target Mary, played by Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, Person of Interest-TV), discovered something in the man’s apartment that would change her life. With Billy Brown (Star Trek, Race to Witch Mountain) as Tom, Danny Glover (The Color Purple, 2012) as Benny, Jahi Di’Allo Winston (The Upside, Feed the Beast-TV) as Danny and Neal McDonough (Timeline, Captain America: The First Avenger) as Walter; the idea for this story seemed interesting to me. Sadly this movie was put together in all the wrong ways, so my interest level dropped significantly close to the start. I thought the script was generic, put together like a child’s puzzle. There really was nothing new about it; in fact, I think there was a movie similar to this one years ago. For this picture the only thing that held my interest was the soundtrack. I mean how can you not like Tina Turner singing Proud Mary? The action was dull, the acting was plain, the script was tired and there was nothing new in it to illicit an emotional response from the viewer. All I want to say is this; with this female lead picture, I hope it is not an indication of what is in store for female actresses in this year’s crop of films.
1 ½ stars
PACKING up my homemade treats, looking over my predictions with the list of winners, using eyes that were strained and tired from staring at the television screen for hours; I was ready to go to bed. Another year is now in the record books for a lot of reasons. Of course the biggest surprise was the mixup for the last category, best picture. Reading and hearing about the different theories on the how and why it happened did not provide me with answers to a couple of simple questions. Assuming Warren Beatty has all of his mental faculties, I just do not understand why he did not say he had the wrong card. It was obvious to me he was flustered, looking back to the side stage and around; he did not know what to do. Of all things then why would he throw Faye Dunaway under the bus. He could have whispered in her ear to see if she agreed, but since the surveys said La La Land was going to win, Faye possibly saw that on the card first instead of Emma Stone’s name when he showed her. The two of them knew they were giving out the best picture award, wouldn’t seeing Emma Stone’s name on the card be the first clue something was wrong and it would be perfectly okay to say so? This is just my opinion.
THE opening was refreshing to me. Since host Jimmy Kimmel is not a song and dance type of comedian like Billy Crystal, I liked the way Justin Timberlake sang his Oscar nominated song which loosened up the audience. Because of this, I felt the crowd gave off less of “aren’t we great, idolize us” vibe and more of an earthiness if you will. In fact, I thought Jimmy did a wonderful job in being down to earth. He avoided the mean spiritedness that some jokes could have taken on while he kept things moving on. The candy drop and the busload of tourists were my favorite segments, though the Matt Damon feud thing was more outrageous on the big stage. My favorite part was when Jimmy was conducting the orchestra to drown out Matt during his presentation.
MAYBE it is me but I thought the speeches were shorter this year and surprisingly were more personal when politics was brought into them. My favorite speeches of the night came from Viola Davis and the reading of writer and director Asghar Farhadi’s acceptance speech. Viola was so passionate and sincere, I loved how she talked about actors taking on the lives for those who no longer can speak. I laughed at Jimmy’s comment that she would be nominated for an Emmy with her speech. As for Asghar’s speech, I had just seen his winning film The Salesman the afternoon prior to the show and appreciated his thoughtfulness and heartfelt words. Gael Garcia Bernal was one of the presenters that touched the perfect balance of personal without the hate. Speaking of presenters I felt Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae were lovely while on stage as they brought out Katherine G. Johnson, the NASA mathematician that Taraji portrayed on screen. It was such a touching moment.
EVEN with the long telecast, as I reclined across my sofa my desire to be a seat filler was just as strong today as it has been all the past years. Just once I want to be part of the red carpet pre show activities, the ceremony and just be able to walk around and soak up the whole atmosphere of the event. With that said it has been a year of ups and downs with movies. I feel I saw more poorly done films than wonderful ones; but I would not trade a minute of it since I still love the whole movie watching experience and the ability to write down my thoughts to share with you. So tomorrow we will start all over for the new Oscar year in search of that 4 star picture. I look forward to another year talking and commenting on the movies with you. Thank you for all of your support, I deeply appreciate it.
HIS attendance was perfect; he never missed a day of work. The quality of his work was outstanding and it showed in his yearly performance review because he never received a below average mark in any of the performance categories. However, he never received an above average mark either; but, he did not complain about it, grateful he had a job. The travel time for him was long; it required 2 buses and a train to get to the office. The company had over 200 employees but he could not call one of them a friend. Some individuals would only talk to him if they had to for business; he was used to the blank or condescending looks he would get for nearly every action he took. SHE was in love and it did not even take her long to realize it. They had met at a coffee shop one afternoon. Over their drinks they did not strictly make small talk; they ventured into deeper subjects and it was apparent there was a unique kindness being shared between them. Over the next several weeks a mutual fondness grew between them. Each was starting to think they found the right one they wanted to be with for the rest of their life. With the blossoming love they shared they became more affectionate with each other. Simple things like holding hands at the movies or a quick kiss on the cheek, actions everyone in love has done from time to time. When they were affectionate they did not realize people around them would stop what they were doing to watch the happy couple. The look on these strangers’ faces was usually a grimace, a look of disgust. Nothing the happy couple did was inappropriate but it did not matter, there was another reason. And the reason could be found in the color of a person’s skin. LOSING the space race to the Russians was not acceptable; it would take effort from every single person at NASA to get astronaut John Glenn up into space. But if you were not the right color, you did not count to some people. Based on a true story this is a must see drama. Starring Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Empire-TV) as Katherine G. Johnson, Octavia Spencer (The Help, Snowpiercer) as Dorothy Vaughan, recording artist Janelle Monae (Moonlight) as Mary Jackson and Kevin Costner (Black or White, Draft Day) as Al Harrison; this film festival winning movie was unbelievable. Let me start with the story; what an amazing achievement during a time period that most of us had never known about while history was being made in getting a rocket into space. The acting was wonderful from everyone; even minor characters fit right in without missing a beat of the story. As a movie viewing experience I had a great time clapping and cheering with the audience during a few scenes. Knowing how the story was going to end, since it is a part of US history, did not take away from the enjoyment in watching the amazing feats being achieved by the people in this movie. The space program has come so far from blasting John Glenn into space; now if only we could elevate our thinking about judging a person on their abilities instead of their color.
I am generally not as kind of a person as I used to be or even want to be. Those within my circles of friends and family I try to be kind and thoughtful; however, these days strangers are a whole different story. And I have to tell you I hate being that way. Through the years as some of my displays of kindness were met with deceitfulness, those layers of negative experiences started to pull the kindness inside of me down into a setting hardness of mistrust. There were the relationships where kindness was met with covert acts of hurtfulness; helping the high school student who was selling local newspaper subscriptions but my money never made it to the newspaper office and the former co-worker who took my data to pretend it was their own hard work; each thing kept chipping away at me. Look at all the news being reported about internet or phone scams that prey on unsuspecting individuals; it is enough to make one never answer the phone or open a piece of mail again. I know all of these things can lead to a society that is made of closed up and isolated people; it is a scary thought. KINDNESS was met with a night of terror and horror for Terri, played by Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Person of Interest-TV). All it took was to help a stranded driver who had a car accident and needed to make a phone call. Unbeknownst to Terri the gentleman was escaped convict Colin Evans, played by Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom). The strongest element in this crime thriller was Taraji and Idris. The rest of the cast that included Leslie Bibb (Iron Man franchise, Law Abiding Citizen) as Meg and Henry Simmons (World’s Greatest Dad, Madea’s Family Reunion) as Terri’s husband, really took a back seat to Idris and Taraji. With their solid acting the two actors had a believable chemistry that kept me interested in the story. Now about that story; the script was kept at such a poor level that the movie kept brushing into hokeyness. It was astounding how many times Taraji’s character Terri, who was a lawyer, kept making poor choices. Even though the story was predictable and filled with cliches, I still was able to be mildly entertained for a portion of the time. It was a shame this movie was not kind to its actors and it would be unkind of me to tell you to go see it at the movie theaters. There were several scenes that had violence and blood in them.
Years of learning to clear my dinner plate of all food has taught me to appreciate the importance of having food guests want to eat. I have had dinner parties where most of the meal has dishes I do not like. But I was raised with the notion that no one should leave the dinner table hungry, so I tend to make a variety of main and side dishes. In my mind this is what a host is supposed to do. It is the same if you are hosting an event outside of the home, such as being the best man/woman for a bachelor/bachelorette party. Being responsible for entertaining and feeding the invited guests, the best person usually does everything they can to make it a memorable bash. For some individuals money is no object, even if multiple charge cards are employed in making the event. What host would want any of their guests not having a good time? Certainly not Cedric, played by Kevin Hart (Ride Along, About Last Night), who was the best man of a wedding party in this comedy. The same could be said for Lauren, played by Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Date Night), who was hosting a bachelorette party the same time as the guys’ big night. In this sequel the friends descend onto Las Vegas to celebrate the wedding of Candace, played by Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Scary Movie franchise). Nothing was going to get in the way of a good time, even Kristen’s future mother-in-law Loretta, played by Jennifer Lewis (Hereafter, Meet the Browns). For those of you who enjoyed the first movie, more than likely you will have a good time watching this sequel. As for me my 1st and biggest complaint has to do with Kevin Hart. I have seen enough of his movies (not always by choice) to see he has very little acting talent. Each of his performances consist of him screeching in an annoying vocal pitch, dishing out insults in a machine gun style of rapid fire barbs while being the recipient of a multitude of put-downs. As far as I could tell there were no original jokes in this cheap, tired mess. Everything was easy to follow since it was so predictable. I was bored throughout the picture; however, I will say I liked the lip sync video to the song “Poison,” though it was a ploy to fill up the running time because the writers evidently had run out of ideas. Oh wait, that is not right; the writers had no ideas, using standard situations that were done before. Hosting a movie night at my house, I would be embarrassed to show this film. There was a brief extra scene at the end of the credits.
1 2/3 stars
Women you caught us men; who knew it only took reading Steve Harvey’s best-selling book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” to figure out the male species. And if you believe that, I have a brand new, still in the box Betamax for sale. I did not have high expectations for this movie. The story was about a group of women who read Steve Harvey’s book and used it to beat the man in their life at his own game. The movie, I believe, was not necessarily following the whole book, as much as just presenting scenes that addressed several chapters of it. This certainly was a great marketing idea. There were funny parts throughout this comedy; the bulk of them being handled by Kevin Hart (Death at a Funeral, Fool’s Gold) as Cedric. Out of the different couples in play, I felt Lauren and Dominic played by Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Karate Kid) and Michael Ealy (Seven Pounds, 2 Fast 2 Furious) were the most believable out of the group. Besides them, the acting was passable from the rest of the cast. As far as I could tell, the majority of the audience was enjoying this light comedy. There really was nothing bad about this movie, just light fluff in my opinion. I think this film would be an easy choice as a date night movie for most people.
2 1/4 stars